Why the Penguin?
We are often asked, “What does a penguin have to do with epilepsy?” This of course is in reference to our use of the penguin as our logo and mascot, Echo. Some may believe that epilepsy and penguins have nothing to do with one another; penguins are birds that live in the southern hemisphere and epilepsy is a health condition. But one thing is for sure—because the association between the two may not seem obvious, those who might never have asked about epilepsy will ask about our use of the penguin as a logo. In fact, it has proven to be a great way of opening dialog and educating people about the condition of epilepsy.
The popular image of the penguin—those cute fellows in the tuxedos—is far from reality. There are numerous species of penguins living under some of the harshest conditions known to any wild creatures, from the extreme cold of the Antarctic to the extreme heat of Africa. They may walk distances of up to sixty miles to nest and can go up to six weeks without food while guarding their eggs!
The penguin’s predators include certain types of seals and birds, and to some degree, man. Yet, despite their hardships, penguins have learned to adapt and thrive in an environment that would test the hardiest of souls, at the same time charming mankind with their clown-like antics.
Those who live with epilepsy have also learned to live with harsh conditions. For example, seizures can be unpredictable; on-lookers may be frightened and may not know how to help; medications may have unpleasant side effects. These represent only a few of the ways in which those affected by epilepsy must learn to adapt. This is compounded by the fact that epilepsy is a hidden condition, unless or until a seizure occurs. Unlike other conditions, there are not usually visual indicators that tell others about the condition, or how to respond. School, work, and leisure pursuits may be adversely impacted as a result of misunderstanding.
In adopting the penguin, we see two possibilities. First, it has proven a unique way of generating interest in epilepsy. Second, both penguins and those affected by epilepsy must cope with enormous challenges on a daily basis. Despite their hardships, penguins are perceived as cuddly, fun-loving creatures, yet penguins are much more inside than they “appear” to be on the outside. We hope that the “image” and the “reality” of the penguin’s existence will assist you in drawing upon your own inner strengths and sense of humor as you confront the challenges of living with epilepsy.